December 2017 | Vol. 10, No. 8
In this issue:
Clean energy spurs economic development
Solar garden projects to bring 11 mW to Garfield, Mesa
New Castle can use excess solar energy at nearby facility
Solar stock tank group purchase ‘a huge success’
Sneak peek at high-efficiency Habitat ReStore
Energy Contractor Training: Dec. 7, Carbondale
Clean energy spurs economic development
Clean energy is a powerful tool for driving economic development, according to recent tallies from Garfield Clean Energy.
After eight full years in action, Garfield Clean Energy’s programs and services have driven millions of dollars in investments in clean energy upgrades and yielded millions in energy savings.
Here’s a quick look:
- Efficiency upgrades at 1,006 homes and 277 businesses and churches = $1 million in energy savings every year.
- Documented private sector efficiency investments = $3 million-plus since 2010
- Efficiency upgrades at 34 government buildings = $280,000 in energy savings every year.
- Solar arrays on 32 government buildings = 8.4 megawatt-hours of electricity produced every year, worth $840,000.
- Contractors and suppliers benefitting from increased business = 292 since 2010
To see the details, check out the fact-loaded new brochure covering Garfield Clean Energy’s cumulative results for 2010 – 2017. (8.4 MB file size)
Solar garden projects to bring 11 megawatts to Garfield, Mesa counties
Heather McGregor, Clean Energy Economy News
Two Denver-based solar garden companies are working to develop a string of community solar arrays for Xcel Energy customers in Garfield and Mesa counties. The companies are also negotiating solar energy purchase contracts with local governments.
Xcel Energy has awarded the two companies, Microgrid Energy and Oak Leaf Energy Partners, a total of 11 megawatts of development within its Solar*Rewards program for its customer base in the two counties.
“Garfield Clean Energy partners have been quick to subscribe to these projects, and have been key to making the projects move forward,” said Erica Sparhawk, program director for CLEER, which manages the programs and services of Garfield Clean Energy.
Microgrid Energy was awarded 4 megawatts for unrestricted sales and another 1 megawatt for low-income residential customers of Xcel in the two counties.
Microgrid has secured energy purchase contracts with the town governments of Carbondale, New Castle and De Beque, and a contract is pending with the Town of Silt, according to Jon Sullivan, director of project development for Microgrid.
Oak Leaf Energy Partners was awarded 6 megawatts for unrestricted sales. The Rifle City Council has approved an energy purchase contract with Oakleaf, according to city attorney Jim Neu. The Town of Parachute is in negotiations with the company, Sparhawk said.
Oak Leaf would not confirm its list of contracted customers, although Mike McCabe, one of Oak Leaf’s two principals, said, “Our gardens are almost entirely subscribed.”
In each case, the towns are working with the solar developers and Xcel to review annual energy consumption and existing solar energy generation. The aim is to determine the remaining amount of solar energy each town government needs in order to be 100 percent solar-powered.
The solar garden projects allow the town governments to lock in a low, but gradually escalating, price for electricity over the course of a 20- to 30-year contract.
For Carbondale, with a rough estimated need for 240 kilowatts of generating capacity, the energy cost savings over a 20-year period add up to more than $275,000, according to a recent presentation Sullivan made to the Carbondale Board of Trustees.
Both companies must also secure leases for land to locate the solar gardens. Based on the generation capacity of today’s solar panels, seven acres is needed to generate 1 megawatt of solar electricity, Sullivan said.
Microgrid has secured a 12-acre site along I-70 between Silt and Rifle for a 1-megawatt array, and a larger site in Palisade for a 2-megawatt array. The company continues to look for more open land suitable for an additional 2 megawatts and a 20- to 30-year lease.
McCabe said Oak Leaf has secured three sites, each large enough for a 2-megawatt array, in locations visible from I-70.
Both companies will be seeking bids from contractors to install the arrays, associated electrical equipment and perimeter fencing, and expect to complete the projects in 2018.
Sullivan said this is the first major round of community solar garden development hosted by Xcel Energy in Garfield and Mesa counties. He said Xcel is expected to award more solar garden contracts in the coming years, and those projects would be opened up for sale to Xcel’s business and residential customers.
New Castle wins approval to use excess solar energy at nearby facility
Clean Energy Economy News
A seven-month effort by the Town of New Castle to transfer excess solar power generated at one facility to another nearby facility won final approval from Xcel Energy on Nov. 30. Dave Reynolds, New Castle’s building official, said his quest concluded with a simple email from Xcel Energy.
The email approved the town’s formal request to apply what’s called “aggregate net metering” to the excess power produced by a solar array on the town’s Public Works Facility.
It will allow the town to transfer the excess solar production from Public Works toward some of the usage at the town’s nearby wastewater treatment plant.
New Castle’s success in using a little-known rule within Colorado Public Utilities Commission regulations opens the door for other local governments in Garfield County, said Erica Sparhawk, program director for CLEER.
“Other government facilities have solar arrays that are producing more power than the facilities can use, such as the array on the Garfield County Fairgrounds Riding Arena. New Castle’s work with Xcel Energy cleared a path for other governments to make use of this policy and apply that excess power toward usage at nearby facilities,” Sparhawk said.
For years, the 70-kilowatt solar array on two buildings at the New Castle Public Works Facility has produced more energy than the facility uses. Even after the police department moved in, the array still produced 15 to 20 percent more electricity than needed.
That prompted Councillor Greg Russi to ask if the excess power could be credited to another town facility. Reynolds took on the project.
Reynolds first approach Xcel Energy in May, and with Sparhawk’s help, connected with Kevin Cray, Xcel’s solar trade relations manager.
“Kevin did some digging, and was able to figure out it was doable and legit,” Reynolds said. Then the utility had to figure out which department would handle the town’s request. “Kevin was the one who pushed it through the different departments.”
In 2012, the Colorado PUC had approved a large set of rules governing how utilities handle renewable energy produced by customer-owned facilities. Within those rules was a section on aggregate net metering, which laid out the conditions for customers to apply excess electricity generated at one facility toward the usage at another facility.
The PUC’s rules are clear. To apply aggregate net metering, a utility customer must meet all these conditions:
- The facilities to be aggregated must be located on one parcel, or on properties that are contiguous, and owned by the account holder.
- The electricity generated can only be for customer’s own consumption.
- The meters must all be under the same account holder.
- The meters must be on the same rate schedule.
Still, the process to apply an untested rule to a real-world situation was a bit bumpy.
“We were definitely treading new ground with this,” Reynolds said. “My impression is we were first ones working with this policy.”
New Castle wanted to use the excess power at its wastewater treatment plant. It’s on a contiguous parcel of town-owned land, but is separated from the Public Works yard by railroad tracks. Reynolds had to find other state law that defined parcels as contiguous even if they are separated by an easement such as a rail line.
Then Reynolds and Cray discovered that Public Works used a different utility rate schedule than the wastewater plant. Reynolds dug into the town’s list of meters, and found two meters controlling small parts of the treatment plant operations that could be switched over to the rate schedule used for Public Works.
At one point, there was talk about having to connect the facilities with a costly electric line under the railroad tracks, but Reynolds and Cray determined that aggregated net metering is simply handled as an accounting matter in the billing department
Together, they worked out the format for an official letter of request that the town would send to the utility. Reynolds sent the letter in early November, and received the official approval from Xcel about three weeks later.
The end result won’t yield much savings for the town, as the two meters don’t draw much electricity.
“Those meters probably won’t be able to eat up all the excess, but there’s no way to change the rate schedules on other meters at the wastewaster plant,” Reynolds said..
“We’re going to get through a year of it and see what happens,” Reynolds said. “We may have some other electricity uses coming up on that property, or on other town property that’s contiguous, that we could put on that meter.”
Solar stock tank group purchase ‘a huge success’
The Passive Solar Livestock Tank Sales Event offered by Holy Cross Energy in October resulted in the sale of 58 tanks to livestock owners in Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties.
Local response to the wholesale-pricing offer swamped the manufacturer, Pine Ranch Products of Santa Clara, Utah. The company is expected to complete filling the orders with a delivery of tanks by Dec. 15.
“We wanted to reach out to our livestock owners and let them know about an energy efficient way of watering livestock,” said Mary Wiener, energy efficiency program administrator for Holy Cross Energy.
SunTanks rely on insulation and passive solar heat gain to prevent freezing, even in sub-zero temperatures, eliminating the need for costly electric heating units or the hard work of breaking and shoveling ice.
“We are absolutely astounded at the success of the sales event, by receiving 30 orders for a total of 58 tanks, and we thank all members who participated and made it a huge success,” Wiener said.
In addition to the wholesale pricing for all buyers, at 9 to 14 percent below retail, Holy Cross negotiated for free shipping on the tanks and offered customers a $300 rebate, which cut the total cost of the tanks in half. The sales event was open to all livestock owners in the three counties.
Staff at the Colorado Mountain College Veterinary Technology program noticed the offer and ordered 10 tanks.
“We are replacing 10 electric-heated tanks that were running 24/7 with 10 passive solar tanks,” said Dr. Jeff Myers, director of the CMC Vet Tech program, located on the Spring Valley campus near Glenwood Springs.
The swap helps fulfill CMC’s effort to be environmentally responsible, Myers said, and delivers two other key benefits. It eliminates the need for electric wires inside animal pens, and because the water in the tanks is not directly exposed to sunlight, the system inhibits the growth of algae.
“The tanks will provide a better source of water for our animals, and mean less cleaning for us,” Myers said.
The CMC Vet Tech program has six horses, five cattle, 15 goats, four sheep, four alpaca and one llama, so the tanks will be well used. Other heated watering systems will continue to be used for the programs chickens and ducks.
On Missouri Heights, Denise Henderson said she “couldn’t be happier” with the SunTank purchased for her horse, Summer.
“For me, this is a game changer,” Henderson said. “I used to have to run out 150 feet of electric line, and cover my tank with plywood, and strap it to the tank. This is so great. It fits right under my frost-free pump.”
Henderson said her horse adapted to the SunTank immediately. The 25-gallon size will keep Summer well-watered for two days. The tanks also come in a 40-gallon size.
After a partial delivery of SunTanks by Pine Ranch Products in November, the remaining tanks are expected by mid-December. Customers will be notified once the delivery arrives, and can pick up their tanks at Holy Cross Energy headquarters, 3799 Highway 82 in Glenwood Springs from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday.
Customers, or anyone picking up a tank for someone else, should bring the confirmation letter to be sure they receive the correct tank.
Sneak peek at new Habitat ReStore reveals high-efficiency features
By Maisa Metcalf and Heather McGregor, Clean Energy Economy News
A crowd of about 50 people got a sneak peek into the clean energy innovations used for the new Habitat ReStore at a special event on Nov. 30.
A tight building envelope, proper ventilation, efficient mechanical systems, LED lighting and a 56 kilowatt rooftop solar array combined to create a “beyond-code” store and warehouse facility that’s expected to save Habitat about $24,000 a year in utility costs compared to conventional construction, according to Habitat Construction Manager Dana Dalla Betta.
For example, a blower-door test showed that the building exceeds the current International Energy Conservation Code’s standard by a factor of three, Dalla Betta said. The solar array is expected to offset about 65 percent of the facility’s annual electrical use, she said.
The Nov. 30 event was part of the Energy Innovation Series sponsored by CLEER, CORE and Garfield Clean Energy.
Green Line Architects designed the building, Confluence Architecture consulted on building envelope, SGM handled engineering and energy modeling, Alpenglow Lighting Design handled the LED lighting, and Sunsense Solar installed the solar array. A $200,000 TRUE Pioneer Grant from CORE helped fund the efficiency and solar upgrades.
Habitat will consolidate its three existing stores into one location, cutting transport costs by concentrating all inventory in one location.
These energy and operational savings will help Habitat expand its primary mission of building affordable housing projects in the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys.
The 40,500-square-foot store south of Glenwood Springs is expected to open in January.
Watch this one-minute video of the Habitat ReStore groundbreaking ceremony.
FREE Energy Contractor Training
Learn about new programs to grow your business and close projects. This training is for any contractor interested in learning more about residential and commercial energy efficiency and leveraging programs to close sales.
Thursday, December 7, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Third Street Center, 520 S. Third St., Carbondale
- RENU residential loan program (get authorized!)
- 2018 rebates from CORE and utilities.
- Grants for nonprofits and income-qualified clients.
- Plus: extra installer incentives from Black Hills Energy.
It’s free, and lunch is included. Please RSVP.
RSVP today for this free workshop by email or phone.
firstname.lastname@example.org / or call (970) 704-9200
Presented by CLEER, CORE, Garfield Clean Energy, Energy Smart Colorado, Black Hills Energy, Energy Outreach Colorado and the Colorado Energy Office.
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